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"Before you know it as the years go by, you're just like other people you have seen, with all those peculiar human ailments. Just another vehicle for temper and vanity and rashness and all the rest. Who wants it? Who needs it? These things occupy the place where a man's soul should be." -- Henderson the Rain King

Monday, January 31, 2005

More Music-y Goodness

ChromeWaves has a nice write up on the re-release of Wilco's A Ghost Is Born featuring 5 bonus tracks. Good to see that the bonus tracks will be available for free download from WilcoWorld for anyone who bought a copy of the original version. The same post also contains a link to a an excellent (MP3) version of Ashes of American Flags from their recent appearance on Austin City Limits.

Speaking of ACL, PureLiveGigs has a link to this torrent of the recent Bright Eyes appearance on the show. The set list includes 3 Bright Eyes songs, a M. Ward song and a Jim James song. If you just can't get enough of M. Ward, AcousticWood has MP3s posted of his July 29th, 2004 show at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC. The set list is especially cool and features covers of songs by David Bowie, Daniel Johnston, Bob Dylan, Elmore James, and Butterglory.

DigitalPanic has a link to this torrent of one of the recent Centro-Matic shows opening for the Drive-By Truckers at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, GA. Centro-Matic = Awesome.

The Coachella Festival line-up has been announced and it looks really strong. Wilco, Weezer, MF Doom, Bright Eyes, Nine Inch Nails, The Arcade Fire, The Fiery Furnaces, etc., etc. Looks pretty sweet if you can stand the heat.

The Seattle Times recently ran a short piece on one of our great local labels Barsuk Records.

I've Got Something To Say!

Oh man, I am so excited to see that the Strangers With Candy movie is finished! The whole crew is back and somehow they even convinced Matthew Broderick to join in. The story is a prequel to where the show started, and begins with Jeri's release from her infamous prison stay.
The movie played at the Sundance Film Festival over the weekend, and has already been picked up for distribution by Warner Independent Pictures, so hopefully that means we'll see it in local theaters in the near future.


Were you looking at my bum? Cheeky bum looker.


Mariners Fan Fest

Yesterday, I went to the Mariners Fan Fest at Safeco Field. The best part was listening to the interview sessions. We got to see Richie Sexson, Bret Boone, Miguel Olivo, Bryan Price and Bill Bavasi speak.

Here are some of the highlights and interesting tidbits I can remember off hand:

  • Bret Boone getting approached by a lady who claimed she had shook his hand on 8 different occassions and on all 8 he had hit a home run that day. Boone claimed he remembered her, but I think he was just being polite. He did get up and shake her hand which drew a hearty laugh from the crowd. Sexson and Olivo tried to add to the joke by going over for their own hand shakes, but were rudely rebuked when the lady refused. Very strange.
  • Richie Sexson recalling his favorite practical joke, which involved tricking Curtis Leskanic into getting a whirlpool full of red Kool-Aid. Apparently it dyed his skin red up to his neck.
  • Boone's response to the question of who would hit more home runs between him and Sexson: "You mean overall or pound for pound?".
  • Boone teasing Sexson about being tall. Sexson teasing Boone about being short.
  • Dave Neihaus teasing Boone for wearing a shirt that said 'Naturally Blond".
  • Bryan Price getting asked by a Husky fan about the Cal Bears bowl collapse. His response was something to the effect of 'I'm not going to say anything bad about the Huskies, but look at their records'. Ouch :-p
  • Bavasi talking about the possibility of trading for Mike Cameron. I was pleased to hear him say that by their calculations Cameron is worth about 10 runs more than our current players, as it indicates that the M's are finally starting to pay attention to sabermetrics. They also recently hired a full time player-acquisition consultant who is a well respected sabermetricians. If you're unfamiliar with sabermetrics, I highly suggest checking out Michael Lewis' Moneyball.
  • Bavasi talking about finding 'quality through quantity' in reference to the large number of free agents the team is bringing into spring training (Jeff Nelson, Aaron Sele, Benji Gil, etc.). Basically the idea is to take a look at a bunch of guys in the hopes that one of them turns out to be a gem.

I can't wait until the season starts. Only 15 more days until Pitchers and Catchers start reporting for Spring Training!




Naturally Blond


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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Good Curling

Yesterday we went curling at the Granite Curling Club to celebrate Ryan's 30th birthday. I'd been to an open house at the GCC once before, but this time we got to actually play the game rather than just working on the basic skills. For awhile I was feeling like I was getting pretty good, but the more I played the more I realized that I was actually terrible. I am proud to say though that I didn't fall on the ice all day, which was at least a small victory in my mind. I guess I'll have to start thinking up a new way to qualify for the next Olympics. Anyone know where to find a cheap bobsled?


SWEEP!


Saturday, January 29, 2005

Big In Canada

This has been a good blogging week for me. Here a few highlights I thought I'd share:
  • Today I got my 1,000th hit!!!
  • I actually inspired someone to start a blog. Welcome to the blog-o-sphere Toddrick!
  • I got my first two comments by people I don't know (both of whom are from the Great White North). Thanks Rubicon and Jay.

Thanks to everyone for reading. Speaking of blogging highlights, the nominees for the 2005 Bloggies have been posted. It's definitely worth checking out the sites that have been nominated as there are some really great blogs out there.


The Polysyllabic Spree

I just finished reading The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (of High Fidelity and Fever Pitch fame). The book is a collection of 14 of his monthly "Stuff I've Been Reading" columns that have previously been published in The Believer (which by the way is a great magazine). The name of the book is a play on the name of a band called The Polyphonic Spree after whom Hornby has affectionately nicknamed the people who run the magazine.

The basic premise is that each month he describes the books that he's read, how he decided to read them, etc. Hornby's book selection is all over the map, which reminds me a lot of my own reading. It's cool to see how one book or author leads him to another, which leads him to another, and so on. I know that to be true from my own reading as well. The reason I picked up Hornby's book is because I had read Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which got me into reading McSweeney's (which Dave Eggers publishes), which lead me to The Believer (which McSweeney's publishes).

Hornby has a great sense of humor and seems to really enjoy writing the column, which in turn makes it a lot of fun to read. Another thing I like is that he breaks down the "Books I Bought" from the "Books I Read" each month. I was glad to see I'm not the only one who suffers from the affliction of not being able to read them as fast as I can find new ones to read.

All of this reading about reading has got me thinking about my own reading habits. I'm thinking that I may try to participate in the 50 Book Challenge this year. The challenge is to read 50 books in one year and post about them all on your blog. With this one done I'm now up to four so far. That's a pretty good pace, but I guess I'll have to see if I can keep it up. Even if I get to the 35-40 range, I'll be pretty darned happy.

The Winner and New Featherweight Champion...

Here's another one from the 'You Can't Make This Stuff Up' department. Oklahoma State Sen. Frank Shurden apparently has decided to set aside his push for a bill to mandate the castration of convicted sex offenders (aka the "de-nutting" bill) to focus on a more mainstream cause....yup you guessed it, cock fighting.

According to Shurden, cock fighting was a $100 million business in Oklahoma before it was wiped out by a 2002 state law which made it illegal. That's no typo, $100 million! Louisiana and New Mexico must be raking in that money now since they are the only two states where cockfighting is still legal. Shurden wants to bring it back to Oklahoma, but to make it more acceptable to us sensitive folk he has proposed that the roosters wear little boxing gloves and vests containing electronic sensors that record hits and help keep score.

"It's like the fencing that you see on the Olympics, you know, where they have little balls on the ends of the swords and the fencers wear vests," said Shurden. "That's the same application that would be applied to the roosters."

Riiiiight, I get it, just like fencing only with roosters. Never fear though, I'm sure the Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting will protect our feathered friends. Heck, they even have their own Top 10 Reasons to Ban Cockfighting list posted. No way Shurden can compete with that.

Of course, you do have to feel a little bad for those hurt the most by the ban, the cock wranglers.

"We can't afford a million-dollar race horse or a million-dollar NASCAR car," said 68-year-old Ray Alexander, who raises roosters in Lincoln, Miss. "We can afford a chicken, and we can go out and be competitive with that chicken."

Well said Ray. Well said.



Friday, January 28, 2005

In Your Face Conor Oberst

Woo Hoo! Yesterday, Ryan Adams updated his website with the announcement that he is planning to put out not one, not two, but three new albums this year, thus leaving only 7 lonely spots for everyone else on my top 10 albums of 2005 list.

The first album is going to come out as a double CD titled Cold Roses, and will feature Ryan's new band the Cardinals. The CD is currently slated to be released on April 19th. The next two are solo works titled Jacksonville and 29. No release dates have been posted for the last two yet. 29 is supposed to be produced by Ethan Johns who Ryan worked with on Heartbreaker, while the other two are being produced by Tom Schick, who was an engineer on Rock 'N Roll and has previously produced Willy Mason.

Jared Diamond Sold Out

Tonight I was supposed to see Jared Diamond who is in town to present his new book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed as the fourth installment in the Seattle Science Lectures Series. Imagine my surprise when I got to Town Hall only to find a line of people wrapped around the block! From the looks of the crowd, I think people might have thought they were there going to see Neil Diamond instead of Jared Diamond. There serioulsy must have been a good 200-300 people who were left standing outside without tickets which was quite surprising to me given that there were plenty of open seats at the previous three lectures in the series.

Seeing the turnout tonight reminded me of some comments that Seattle mayor Greg Nickels made when we saw him speak on the opening night of SIFF last year. Nickels said that in addition to having the largest movie going audience per capita, Seattle also checks out the largest number of library books per capita and has the highest ratio of bookstores to people of any city in the U.S (of course I can't find jack on line to prove or disprove any of these statements). So there you have it. I don't know whether to be proud of my fellow townsfolk or just disappointed that I didn't get in.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Snoop Blogg

Lately I've just been cold chillin' on the Wessssside kickin' it with my homey Snoop Dee Oh Double Gee. We've got a slammin' update to my blog worked out that's off the heezy for sheezy. You can peep the goods here or you can make your own Snoop collaboration at AskSnoop.

'I belong in da service of da Queen, know what I'm sayin'? I belong anywhere but in between, know what I'm sayin'? She's been crying, I've been thinking And I am da Rain King' -- Adam 'Dirty Dreadz' Duritz
While you're at it, you should also check out this site on the Snooper Bowl. Maybe Snoop will put his boys up against the Luther Campbell's (who is not my cousin, but is indeed a former member of the 2 Live Crew) Liberty City Warriors.



Ya Heard?


Female Ronald McDonald, Lie Girls, and Hasselhoff

Here are a few disturbing links I happened across today, just thought I'd share.

  1. A Japanese McDonald's commercial featuring a sexy female version of Ronald McDonald. What the ...? Trenchman.com has a good write-up on it, so I'll just leave it at that.
  2. Lie Girls is a parody site of a phone sex line for G.W. Bush fans. It's funny. No wait, it's disturbing, no wait it's funny. Whatever it is, it's definitely unique. I think this is work safe, but I wouldn't turn up the speakers too loudly.
  3. The Hasselhoffian Recursion...make it stop!!!!


S-E-X-Y


Wilco, Old 97's, M. Ward, and Ashlee Simpson (again)

Here are my recommended music links for the day.

Here's a cool MP3 of Wilco covering The Band's "I Shall Be Released" at their New Year's Eve show at Madison Square Garden. Check out Tweedy on the falsetto vocals, Richard Manuel would be proud.

The Old 97's just released a DVD of a live performance recorded at The Troubadour in Los Angeles in March 2004. You can watch a clip of "The New Kid" on the New West Records site.

M. Ward's new album is titled Transistor Radio, and is scheduled to be released on February 22. Supporting artists on the album include Jim James, Jenny Lewis, Howe Gelb, Jordan Hudson (of The Thermals) and Vic Chesnutt.

Enough's enough. It's time to join that age old American tradition of showing our outrage by sitting in our chairs and signing a petition. If you're like me this one looks like a good place to start. Do it for the kids. (BTW, yes I realize this is my second Ashlee Simpson post and no I am not proud)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell

This evening we saw Malcolm Gladwell as part three of the continuing Seattle Science Lectures Series at Town Hall. The reading was being taped for C-Span, so I'm hoping it may show up on Book TV at some point down the road. Gladwell was in town to read from his new book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. The book is about snap judgments and how we make them.

Tonight's reading focused on a chapter of his book that details the incidents leading up to the shooting of Amadou Diallo. Diallo was the 23-year old black man who was shot and killed by four white N.Y.P.D. officers in 1999 when they mistakenly thought that the wallet he was reaching for in his jacket pocket was a gun. Gladwell's theory is that the police made three critical snap judgment mistakes that allowed this tragedy to happen. Their first error was mistaking innocence for suspicion. Because he was a young black man hanging out on a porch in a rough neighborhood the police assumed he must be up to something (how we develop these kinds of prejudices could easily fill a whole different book). When the police came back to investigate, Diallo was still standing on the porch (of what happened to be his own apartment building). The rookie cops assumed that his staying there despite their presence as brazenness, when in fact it was probably only Diallo being curious as to what the police were doing in his neighborhood. The final and most critical error was mistaking a terrified man for a terrifying man. Diallo was a recent immigrant to the U.S. and his English wasn't the best, so the commands that the police shouted at him probably scared him. Instead of picking up on this, the police took his nervous behavior as being the actions of someone who was up to something illegal.

Gladwell calls these kinds of bad decisions 'momentary autism'. Autism in its rawest sense being the inability to interpret the intentions of someone's actions. In this case the cops autism was caused by two main factors. The first factor was the effect of arousal. When the body is in a hyper-aware state, it shuts down and causes us to act in strange ways. Because the cops in the Diallo case were all inexperienced, it was easy for them to mistake Diallo as a threat, working themselves into a state that would make it tougher for them to make rational decisions. The second factor Gladwell called out was the effect of time. In situations where we don't have enough time to make a decision, we usually rely on stereotypes. In this case the police had assumed that Diallo was up to something, so when he reached into his pocket their natural inclination was that he was pulling a gun out.

In the retelling of the Diallo case, it's easy to evaluate how the cops reacted and to second guess their decisions, however Gladwell points out that the whole thing unfolded in about 7 seconds. Since humans are so bad at reacting in this kinds of split second situations our best bet to avoiding these kinds of tragedies is to put ourselves into situations where we can buy more time to think. Learning how to buy a few critical seconds should be a part of every police officer's training. For instance, when cops pull someone over at night they are taught to walk up to the driver side of the car and shine a light over the driver's shoulder. If they see someone holding a weapon from this position, they have more time to react to the situation than they would if they were standing directly next to the driver. That little bit of extra time can make the difference between life and death. Another interesting point that Gladwell made was the fact that cops actually tend to make better decisions when they're working alone than when they're working in groups. The reason for this is because when a cop is working alone they are more likely to take caution to keep themselves in safe situations. This added caution results in having more time to make rational decisions. In the case of Diallo, placing 4 rookie cops working together in a situation that required a snap decision was just asking for trouble. Eventually all 4 cops were aquitted of any individual wrong doing, but the case has brought much needed attention to the NYPD policies that allowed such a thing to happen.

The rest of Gladwell's book addresses the way we make similar types of snap decisions in our day to day lives. If it's all as well researched and thought out as the area he presented tonight then I'm sure it's going to be quite a good read.

UPDATE: I just noticed that Nerve.com has posted the transcript from an interview with Malcom and this excerpt available from a chapter about speed dating.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Switching It Over To A.M., Searching For A Truer Sound

Tonight I saw Jay Farrar play at the Tractor Tavern in beautiful, beautiful Ballard. The Tractor is probably my favorite music venue in Seattle. I like it cause it's one of those places that music lovers go to see good down-home American bands. The Tractor's slogan is "A Nice Diesel Place To See Music" which I think sums the place up pretty well. Nobody dresses up, nobody goes to pick up people, it's all about the music. The space itself is simple, but serves its purpose well. The sound is always top notch and the stage is at that perfect height where you can always see but at the same time you don't feel like the band is staring down at you. Even at a sold out show like tonight, there's always enough room to maneuver around, and if you do get stuck in the back you're still closer to the stage than you could get in most venues. For you non-vegetarians out there, they even serve BBQ at the bar.

What better place could there be to see an artist like Jay Farrar who has to be one of the hardest working, most authentic musicians working today? I've seen him play 3 times previously, and was lucky enough to catch Son Volt at Bumbershoot a few years ago. I've always been impressed by his professionalism on stage. As soon as one song ends, he makes a couple of quick tweaks to his guitar and then its on to the next one. I'm telling you, the man can plow through a set list. At a couple of the shows I've seen he's managed to play over 30 songs, which is about 10-15 more than most artists manage. You get the impression that although he likes what he's doing, he's also working hard to earn his paycheck for the night.

Of the shows I've seen him play, tonight was my favorite. The songs were mostly off of Sebastopol and Terrior Blues, but he mixed in some old Son Volt songs, and even some new stuff from the newly recorded Son Volt album (including a political song called "Joe Citizen Blues"). There were lots of highlights including a great bluesy version of "Damn Shame" featuring Jay jamming on the harmonica (somewhat similar to the Memphis Mix version of the song which you can download from free from Amazon), an excellent rendition of "Tear-Stained Eye", a couple of lines from "Whiskey Bottle" mixed into "Heart On The Ground" to appease a pleading Uncle Tupelo fan, and a cover of Buck Owens' "Love's Gonna Live Here". He must have been in a good mood, as he even talked a little between some songs, either making jokes or introducing the next song in the set. Jay played acoustic guitar all night and was accompanied by Mark Spencer (formerly of the Blood Oranges) who was phenomenal.

The opening act tonight was Anders Parker (of Varnaline fame). Anders played a solid set with songs that kept him moving back and forth from his acoustic guitar, to a harmonica and keyboard. One highlight was a cool cover of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", but my favorite tune was a Varnaline song that's simply titled "Song". While Anders had a distinct sound, there was something about his music that struck me as similar to Jay's. I'm not surprised that they're touring together, as I think they complement each other nicely.


Jay coming on for an encore.

"Can you deny there's nothing greater, there's nothing more than the traveling hands of time?" - Jay Farrar "Tear Stained Eye"

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Horrendous Space Kablooie!

Tonight we saw Simon Singh speak about his new book Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe (not to be confused with Nerve's new book The Big Bang: Nerve's Guide to the New Sexual Universe) as part of the continuing Seattle Science Lectures Series at Town Hall. As you can probably guess from the title, the focus of his new book is the Big Bang theory, but what's interesting about the book is that in addition to walking you through the theory itself, Singh also tells the story of how the theory came about and the various trials and tribulations it went through before becoming widely accepted.

The Big Bang theory was first originated by Georges LeMaitre (although he didn't coin the term). In addition to studying physics, LeMaitre was also a monsignor in the Catholic church. LeMaitre was the first to suggest that the universe was born at a single instant in the past and has been expanding outward ever since. At first his ideas were rejected (even by Einstein) as a creationist theory devoid of a strong scientific founding, which is somewhat ironic given that creationists are the main opponents of the theory today.

A few years later Edwin Hubble began to find data suggesting that the universe was in fact expanding, and that the objects in the universe that were furthest away were also moving the fastest. This new data seemed to provide some merit to LeMaitre's theory, but the data they were working with was still fuzzy enough to warrant doubt (as Singh put it 'bad data can be interpreted any way you want to'). The alternative theory with the most support was called the Steady-State theory. It basically proposed the idea that the universe was constantly changing, but that the universe also always came back to an identical steady state.

Over time the experimental data associated with the creation of the universe improved and allowed for better testing of the hypotheses associated with both theories. Two key predictions associated with the Big Bang that held up under the new data were the fact that 3/4's of the matter in the universe is made up of hydrogen, and the fact that the blast of radiation associated with the Big Bang would imply that a measurable amount of microwave radiation would be present in the universe. These predictions are the best evidence we have that the Big Bang theory is true, and are widely accepted as proof by most cosmologists today.

Another cool fact we learned tonight was that by using simple physics it's relatively easy to 'run back the clock' on the universe to the very first moments after the big bang. In fact we can get down to one billionth of one billionth of one billionth of one billionth of a second before our physics start to break down. Presumably at that point you start getting into quantum physics and Chaos theory (although I'm just guessing here).

One last thought I found interesting came from the question and answer session. The question was about where the center of the universe is located. It's an interesting question in that wherever you are in the universe it looks like everything is moving away from you and thus you are in the center. The reality though is that although it looks like the objects are moving away, space itself is actually expanding. The example Dr. Singh used was to think of the lecture hall growing and everyone's seats moving with it, rather than as people getting up and walking further away from each other in a constant sized room.



Sunday, January 23, 2005

RoboSapien Is the Future and the Future Is Now!

Yesterday I got a RoboSapien! I'd like to give a shout out to my mom and my pops for making it all possible with a Best Buy gift certificate. If you're not familiar with RoboSapien, there are a few things you should know up front.

  1. RoboSapien is not a toy. He's half human, half robot.
  2. Do not taunt RoboSapien.
  3. Just because RoboSapien can dance, doesn't mean RoboSapien will dance.
  4. Watch out! He delivers karate chops!
  5. RoboSapien is the future and the future is now.
  6. MC RoboSapien Ain't Nuthin' To F%*# With
  7. RoboSapien is a ninja. Ninjas fight all the time.
  8. Did I mention that RoboSapien is not a toy?

Here's some more key information from the back of the box that RoboSapien was temporarily trapped in before I rescued him.

"RoboSapien is the perfect fusion of technology and personality! Applied Biomorphic Robotics gives him the ability to move and act in humanoid ways. And, when RoboSapien communicates, you will know exactly what he is feeling!...

His advanced interactive reflex system allows RoboSapien to respond to touch, sound and obstacles in his path! RoboSapien is almost human!"

Despite my high hopes, so far I haven't been able to teach RoboSapien how to do much, but I have confidence we will make some progress in the coming days. My first goal is to teach him how to make me a sandwich. I'm a little bit fuzzy on what goal two will be at the moment, but I know step three is try to take over the world.

Oh, and Ben if you're reading this your Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robots are going down just as soon as I master this whole karate chop thing.


Boo Yah!


Saturday, January 22, 2005

So No Depression It Hurts

You've gotta love the Hattie's Hat. At breakfast this morning, I snapped this picture of their "Resolution Breaker Special" from the drink menu on the table. Viva la camera phone!Posted by Hello


The Glove Compartment Isn't Accurately Named

Death Cab For Cutie recently completed a video for "Title and Registration" from their album Transatlanticism. The video was directed by Patrick Daughters who was also directed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Maps" and Har Mar Superstar's "DUI" videos. The band's website has the video available for streaming, as well as an unreleased version of the song and a cover of Julian Cope's "World Shut Your Mouth"

The Strokes have been in their studio in NYC recording their third album. The album is being produced by David Kahne who has worked with such diverse artists as Tony Bennett, Sublime, K.D. Lang, and the Bangles. No word yet on when it will be done, but the expectations are that it will come out sometime late this year.

Be sure to set your TiVo to record Modest Mouse and Guided By Voices on Austin City Limits tonight. The set lists for both bands are posted here.

Friday, January 21, 2005

SpongeBob LeatherPants

Reuters reported today that a newly released cartoon video remake of Sister Sledge's hit "We Are Family" has caused two Christian Conservative groups to issue a "gay alert" (I'm not joking, they call it a gay alert). The video is meant to be a celebration of tolerance and diversity, but according to a spokesman for the American Family Association:

"A short step beneath the surface reveals that one of the differences being celebrated is homosexuality"
The other group calling the video into question is everybody's favorite, Focus on the Family. This is the same Focus on the Family that went after Katie Couric back in 1998. According to the AFA, it's not the video itself that they object to, but rather the teacher's guide that comes with the video and the We Are Family Foundation website which "contains elements that promote the acceptance of homosexuality" [insert bad Liza Minnelli joke here].

If you're interested in seeing what all of the uproar is about, Keith Olbermann has a link to the full video in this article. The cartoon starts about 2 1/2 minutes into the clip, although I think his commentary is actually more interesting than the cartoon itself.

This isn't the first time SpongeBob has been accused of promoting homosexuality. Internet users have been debating his sexuality since a 2002 Wall Street Journal article which revealed his popularity in the gay community.

At times like this it's usually best to go to the source, so who better to comment on SpongeBob's sexual orientation than SpongeBob creator and sometimes marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg. According to Hillenburg, "I always think of them (SpongeBob and his friend Patrick) as being somewhat asexual." That's right, asexual! Now there's a new controversy for you. What kind of example does an asexual sponge set for our kids?


Gay?


Thursday, January 20, 2005

Billions and Billions...

Tonight we saw astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson speak as part of the Seattle Science Lectures Series at Town Hall. He was in town to talk about his new book Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, which is a companion piece to the PBS Nova series of the same name. The lecture was a lot of fun as Dr. Tyson mixed his great knowledge of the subject with a keen sense of humor. For instance, while teaching us about 'dark matter', 'sun spots', 'black holes' and other astronomical terms that sound like what they actually are, he paused to poke fun at the geologist and biologist who rely on 10-syllable Latin words to explain their concepts.

My favorite part of the lecture was when he talked about Titan and our recent explorations there with the Huygens space probe. Titan is one of Saturn's moons and is one of only four objects in our solar system that has its own atmosphere (Venus, Earth, and Mars being the other three). After Mars and Venus, it is the most likely place in our solar system for us to find any evidence of life. The probe has already photographed what appear to be methane lakes on the moon's surface, which is of particular interest as it is believed that a fluid liquid such as water is one of the basic requirements for life to exist. If you're interested in checking out more about Dr. Tyson, PBS has a good interview with him on their site.


Photo from PBS


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Music Links of the Day

Here are some cool music related links that I found today:

The Arcade Fire were recently on the Morning Becomes Ecletic show in Santa Monica, CA. You can find the whole show available for download in MP3 format here. Highlights include a new song titled "Intervention" and a cover of The Magnetic Fields' "Born on a Train".

The Postal Service has just put out a video for their song "We Will Become Silhouettes". The video is directed by Jared Hess of Napoleon Dynamite fame. The video features Ben Gibbard singing karaoke while Jimmy Tamborello plays a keyboard. Also making an appearance in the video is Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley. You can watch the video here.

Last year DJ Dangermouse was the talk of the internet after he remixed the vocals from Jay-Z's Black Album with The Beatles' White Album to make his own creation aptly titled The Grey Album. Now there is a Jay-Z construction set available which allows anyone to easily create their own remix. One clever example that has already popped up is a mix of the Jay-Z album with Weezer's self-titled debut album (often called the Blue Album). The remix is being called Jay-Zeezer's Black and Blue Album, and is available for download on the Jay-Zeezer website.

Two Cow Garage is a new(ish) band from Columbus, Ohio. They remind me a lot of Drive-By Truckers and Slobberbone. I recently ordered their new album The Wall Against Our Back after hearing a couple of the songs. You can check them out yourself on their website, where they currently have about 10 MP3 tracks available for download.

Birthday Pictures

LDC posted a few pictures from my b-day dinner on her blog. Cool!


Apparently Paul and I both got the striped shirt memo


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Wilco Book

I'm currently reading The Wilco Book which was published by PictureBox Inc. last November. The book is a mixture of art work, images related to the band, comments and essays from Wilco members, a Henry Miller essay titled "The Angel Is My Watermark", and an essay by Rick Moody on five Wilco songs (namely "Dash 7", "Sunken Treasure", "She's A Jar", "Ashes of American Flags", and "Hell Is Chrome"). The book also includes a bonus CD which features 12 tracks recorded during the recording sessions for A Ghost Is Born.

My favorite part of the book so far is a section in which the band discusses the steps they go through when making a new record. In many ways, this book is to A Ghost Is Born what Sam Jones' documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart was to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Just as the movie gave us an unflinching view into the inner workings of the band during the recording of UHF, the book provides us with insight into what the band was trying to accomplish with their new album and the hurdles they ran into along the way. For instance, Jeff Tweedy mentions that one of his early goals for the new album was to avoid writing lyrics in the first person and to avoid writing about personal things. Later in the process he realizes that his attempt to make the lyrics impersonal was really 'just an attempt to hide' and that in reality writing in the third person can be even more personal at times because 'it shows the hand of someone trying to avoid himself'. Later he talks about leaving 'open spaces' in the songs that allow people to take the lyrics and apply them to their own situation or experiences. There's a lot more of these kinds of details in the book, but you get the idea. I think it's great that Wilco keeps providing it's fans with materials like this that supplement and enhance the experience of listening to the music. I hope more bands will follow their cue.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Digital Archiving

About a year ago I read Double Fold by Nicholson Baker. In the book, he talks about how libraries (unnecessarily in some cases) rushed to preserve old newspapers and books by scanning them and transferring them to technologies such as microfiche (which was considered to be cutting edge at the time). Once the scanned versions of the data were made available, many libraries chose to discard their original material since they now had easy access to the data in a format that was easier for them to store and maintain. Unfortunately, as time has gone by technologies such as microfiche have become obsolete. Libraries now find themselves in a seemingly endless cycle of transferring their digitized material from one format to another. In many cases these transfers result in data loss which can lead to content being corrupted or in the worst case scenarios lost altogether.

As I've started to blog, I've been thinking a lot about this book and how it applies to information on the internet. For instance, the links in this blog provide a valuable source of information that in many cases are critical to the meaning of the posts themselves. How many of these links will still be active 10 years from now? What about 100 years from now? Will this blog even be available in any form?

As the internet continues to grow into our information center, how do we ensure that the content it contains is perserved in any meaningful way? The good news is that there are people out there thinking about these kinds of problems. The Internet Archive and UC Berkeley's Digital Library Project are a couple of examples of organizations dedicated to thinking through these tough problems and working towards putting the pieces in place to build a top-notch Internet Library.

I expect we'll see similar archival problems as the file formats we use for our music and images changes. The MP3s and JPGs of today will eventually be replaced with new file types that are technically superior. As they're replaced the support for the old file types will eventually wither away. Will all of the music and image content we have today convert to the new formats successfully? Will we lose some of our music and image files in the process? It's pretty scary to think of all of those family photos that could easily be lost one day due to software compatibility bugs.

If you're interested in these kinds of topics, another interesting book to check out is Why Things Bite Back by Edward Tenner. In it he talks about some of the unexpected consequences we've run into as a result of our technology "advances". For instance the fact that the wide spread use of antibiotics, has resulted in strains of bacteria and viruses that have developed immunity to today's treatments. The book is a good reminder that despite what we may think, we don't always know what the full effect of our technology advances will be.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Another Trip To The Boom

Today I used one of my gift certificates to pick up three new CDs from the Sonic Boom:

  • Fiery Furnaces - EP - I'm hoping that this will turn out to be as good as Blueberry Boat, but I can already recommend it based on hearing the extended version of "Single Again", "Here Comes the Summer", and the reworked "Tropical Ice-Land". It's also worth checking out the Pitchfork review which is quite funny.
  • Magnolia Electric Company - Trials and Errors - Limited to 10,000 copies, this is a live CD recorded in Brussels in 2003. It features three old songs from Songs:Ohia as well as a bunch of new stuff from Jason Molina. I picked it up after listening to a few of the tracks on one of the listening machines in the store. The songs I heard reminded me a lot of Neil Young, so I figured it would be worth checking out. It looks like Secretly Canadian has a couple of tracks from the CD available as MP3 downloads on their site.
  • Lyrics Born - Later That Day - This was released awhile ago, but I never got around to picking up a copy. I first heard of Lyrics Born from his work with Blackalicious, but he is better known as half of Latyrx. Mostly I bought this for "Callin' Out" which is a fun song that they often feature on KEXP (on the live version he even gives a shout out to his Seattle crew).

Random side note: while looking on the Secretly Canadian site, I saw that Damien Jurado has a new CD scheduled for release on April 5th. Woo Hoo!


Saturday, January 15, 2005

TiVo Gone Wireless

Tonight I configured my TiVo to connect to a wireless network. Getting everything set up turned out to be a breeze. The whole process took less than 30 minutes, and basically consisted of plugging a compatible wireless adapter (I went with the D-Link DWL-122) into an open USB port on the back of the DVR, and then walking through a simple TiVo settings wizard that guided me through the process of specifying the network to connect to and the appropriate WEP key needed to connect.

Now that the TiVo has access to the internet, I was able to remove the phone line that was previously connected to the DVR. Instead of dialing up nightly to get the latest program information and software updates, the TiVo will now download the information directly over my network.

In addition to configuring the TiVo to connect wirelessly, I also installed TiVo Desktop on my PC. The TiVo Desktop application allows you to publish the music and photo files on your PC over your network so they can be played on your TV. This feature is pretty cool, and was fun to play around with, but I doubt it's something I'll be using very much. The main thing that won me over to going wireless, was the ability to use the new TivoToGo feature which was just released recently. Using TivoToGo, you can transfer recorded programs from your TiVo onto a laptop or PC for later playback. TiVo is currently in the process of rolling out the DVR software to support this new feature. I was disappointed to see that my TiVo hasn't received the update yet, so I'll have to wait a little longer to see whether or not this new functionality lives up to the hype. In the meantime, I was pleased to see that TiVo has a form that you can fill out to have your DVR queued for priority processing. Once I receive the update and have a chance to play around with things, I'll post a more in-depth review of TivoToGo and whether or not it's worth setting up.

TV Phone

Here's a cool gadget that was being shown off by Sanyo at CES. It's a cell phone with a built in digital TV tuner. This product is another small step in the movement towards having one centralized portable device which will eventually serve as your cell phone, your PDA, a source of entertainment (such as TV, music and games), your camera, your digital wallet, etc. No word yet on when this product will be available or how much it will retail for, but I can't imagine that it'll be too long before something similar is on the market.

Bill Gates Interview With GizModo

Bill Gates recently sat down with GizModo for a four-part interview. The interview covered a lot of different topics including blogging, Digital Rights Management (DRM), and the future of Windows, and makes for a very interesting read.

Bright Eyes Pre-order

Saddle Creek is currently offering a pre-order sale on the two new Bright Eyes CDs, Digital Ash In A Digital Urn and I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. The CDs are only $11 each, and all orders are being placed in a daily drawing to win either an iPod or a poster autographed by Conor Oberst. The best part is that they are shipping the CDs already, so if you order now you can get them before they're available in stores. I also like ordering from Saddle Creek because they always slip in a little handwritten thank you note with their orders. Nothing like good old fashioned customer service.

We Will Become Silhouettes

Tonight was one of those nights that makes me realize how fortunate I am to live in a great city like Seattle. Where else can you donate $15 to help support a Tsunami Relief fund and be treated to a great night of entertainment by members of some of today's best bands in return?

The Showbox put together a great lineup for tonight's Northwest Medical Teams benefit show featuring Dave Bazan (of Pedro the Lion), James Mercer (of The Shins) and Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab For Cutie, The Postal Service, etc.) .

Dave Bazan was the first artist to come out to perform. As a big fan of Damien Jurado and a few similar bands, I constantly see Pedro The Lion popping up on recommended listening lists, but I've never really been able to get into them (though there are a few of their songs I really like). The show was solid but not spectacular, which was disappointing as I was really hoping to get into it more. A few highlights from the set were a cover of Randy Newman's 'Political Science' (is everyone required to cover this now-a-days?) and a Neil Young cover from On The Beach.

Next up was James Mercer, who brought Shins guitarist Dave Hernandez to play with him. Together they played a really strong set featuring some of my favorite Shins songs and even some pre-Shins tunes. I'd seen the Shins twice before in festival settings (ACL and Bumbershoot) and as much as I love their recorded albums I'd always left feeling a bit underwhelmed at their live shows. Fortunately that was not the case tonight as the music came across great in the smaller venue. I recently realized that the Shins are one of the few bands who I can listen to over and over again without ever learning any of the lyrics. I think this a tribute to James Mercer's voice, which never ceases to amaze me as he seems to be able to belt out the most melodic sounds with seemingly no effort.

The closing act was Ben Gibbard, and he more than lived up to the high expectations I had coming in. I've been a Death Cab fan for several years, but I've always preferred Ben's side projects such as All-Time Quarterback, his solo split EP on Post-Parlo records, the Postal Service, etc. Top that off with the fact that I usually prefer solo acoustic shows in general, and you can see why I was expecting such great things.

Ben came out sporting a fresh indie rock beard and played a great mix of new(ish) songs from Transatlanticism, old DCFC favorites, and even a new song he's working on for their next album (I believe it was titled "Broken Yolk Over Western Sky"). In addition to the Death Cab songs, he also mixed in a variety of other stuff including "You Remind Me of Home" from the Post-Parlo release, an outstanding cover of Michael Jackson's "Thriller", and a cover of Spiritualized's Hold On. To top it off he even played "Such Great Heights" from the Postal Service album much to my delight and surprise (especially after reading the Postal Service article in the latest DIW Magazine).

All in all a great night and definitely one of the best shows I've been to in a long time.

Grainy photo of Ben Gibbard taken with my camera phone.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

They Say It's Your Birthday

Tonight Jill organized a belated birthday dinner for me at FareStart in downtown Seattle. FareStart is a charity organization whose goal is to provide life service skills and job training in the food service industry to homeless men and women. Graduates from their program are placed in a variety of food service-related positions such as restaurant kitchens and dining rooms, foodservice companies, and banquet operations.

Every Thursday evening, FareStart brings in a special guest chef for a charity dinner to raise money for the organization. Tonight's dinner was sponsored by Lisa Dupar of Lisa Dupar Catering. I had a yummy vegetarian entree which consisted of a gnocchi with roasted squash in a sage cream sauce.

11 of my best friends joined us for dinner which made for a very enjoyable celebration. It was great to get to chat with everyone and catch up on what folks have been up to lately. I even scored a copy of Madden 2005 and a gift certificate to the Sonic Boom as birthday presents! To top it off, as a group we ended up donating $300 to FareStart. We are also going to submit it through our corporate matching program which should bring the total to $600! All in all a really great experience, and definitely something I'd like to do again for future birthdays :-)

Dean Running For Head of DNC

Howard Dean announced today that he is running for the Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.
"Offering a new choice means making Democrats the party of reform—reforming America's financial situation, reforming our electoral process, reforming health care, reforming education and putting morality back in our foreign policy. The Democratic Party will not win elections or build a lasting majority solely by changing its rhetoric, nor will we win by adopting the other side's positions. We must say what we mean—and mean real change when we say it." -- Howard Dean

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Dean's opponents are expected to include former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, recently defeated Texas Rep. Martin Frost, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, New Democrat Network leader Simon Rosenberg, former Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Leland and Democratic strategist Donnie Fowler.

I'd like to see Dean win it as I think he'd be a bold step towards providing clearer differentiation between the Dems and the Republicans in the years ahead.

Flame Throwing Car

The BBC has an article today about a new anti-theft device for cars in South Africa.

"A blaster, flame-thrower operated by a foot pedal inside the car, blasts a jet of fire at a would-be hijacker.

A person confronted by an armed hijacker simply presses a pedal and the "blaster" ignites gas that shoots from the under-side of the car."

Apparently it's totally legal "so long as the right people are blasted." Man, I've got to get one of those things installed on the Jetta! Oh, and mental note...never, ever, ever drive in South Africa.


Ian Knapp - Singer/Songwriter

KEXP's John In The Morning recently featured Ian Knapp, a new singer/songwriter from the U.K., in his 'Your New Favorite Band' segment. The songs he played were really good so I went to Knapp's site and was pleased to find 3 full tracks posted for your listening pleasure. Knapp's voice reminds me of Holopaw's John Orth, but his music is more straight-forward folk-rock. Definitely worth checking out.

Speaking of Holopaw, Found Magazine has an unreleased track available for download. The lyrics for the song are based partially on letters found by the Gainesville Friends of the Library.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Karate-Kicking Kung-Fu Playboy Play-Mate

This article is almost too good to be true!

"A Playboy Playmate accused of karate-kicking the ex-girlfriend of NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia was acquitted Wednesday of a misdemeanor assault charge."

Let's go over that sentance again shall we. A Playboy Playmate accused of karate-kicking an NFL quarterback's ex-girlfriend? Seriously? You can't make this stuff up. Oh, and yes this is Jeff "I'm Not Gay" Garcia, aka Jeff "DUI" Garcia.

"The Playmate of the Year testified Wednesday that Garcia cheated on her with Hine. Nasty phone calls and threatening voice mails followed and culminated in a confrontation Aug. 21 at the Tramp nightclub. "

That's right, we're not talking about your run of the mill Playmate here. This is the Playmate of the Year! And I challenge you to come up with a better venue for a cat fight than 'Tramp Nightclub'.

"Name-calling ensued, and a friend of Hine’s dumped a drink on DeCesare. Each woman had to be restrained. Hine accused DeCesare of grabbing a dance pole and kicking her in the head. DeCesare told the judge that she was dancing on a table when one of Hine’s friends started “coming at me full-force, swinging like a guy.”

Grabbing a dance pole and kicking her in the head? Are we talking about the Playmate of the Year here or Jackie Chan? Man, that must have been awesome!


Reaction To Announcement On End of WMD Search

The International Herald Tribune has a good article posted that includes reaction to the news from both parties, including this juicy quote from Democratic leader of the House Nancy Pelosi:

"After a search that has consumed nearly two years and millions of dollars, and a war that has cost thousands of lives, no weapons of mass destruction have been found, nor has any evidence been uncovered that such weapons were moved to another country. Not only was there not an imminent threat to the United States, the threat described in such alarmist tones by President Bush and the most senior members of his Administration did not exist at all...Now that the search is finished, President Bush needs to explain to the American people why he was so wrong, for so long, about the reasons for war."

Donde Esta Los Weapons De Mass Destruction?

The Washington Post reported today that the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq officially ended shortly before Christmas. I guess Hans Blix was right all along:
"I'm certainly coming more and more to the conclusion that Iraq has, as they maintained, destroyed all, almost, of what they had in the summer of 1991." -- Hans Blix, September 2003
Also buried in the article is this little jewel:

"Congress allotted hundreds of millions of dollars for the weapons hunt, and there has been no public accounting of the funds. A spokesman for the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency said the entire budget and the expenditures would remain classified. "

Sigh.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Cool Blogging Tools

Two tools which have been helpful in getting my site up and running are StatCounter and VillagePhotos.

StatCounter is a tool which allows you to easily add a free web tracker to your site. The web tracker collects interesting information about your web site, such as how many hits your site is getting, what pages people are looking at, how they are getting to your site in the first place, how long they spend looking at your content, etc. To start gathering the data for your blog, just browse to the StatCounter site, set up a project, follow their instructions and then paste in the JavaScript that the site generates into your blog template.

Another site which has been helpful is VillagePhotos. VillagePhotos provides 10MB of free image hosting. The best part is that that the images hosted on their site can be linked to from any external site (unlike oFoto and some of the other popular image hosting sites). If you're just looking to upload a basic image to your site, you'll probably find that Blogger's integration with Hello already makes it easy to get started, but if you're looking for a little more flexibility VillagePhotos may be just the thing you're looking for.

Wilco Videos From Pianos

The Daily Refill has a pair of QuickTime videos from Wilco's recent surprise show at Pianos in NYC. One of the videos is a cover of The Captain & Tenille's "Love Will Keep Us Together" and the other is a cover of Randy Newman's "Political Science".

In other Wilco news, NPR's All Songs Considered has Wilco's "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" listed as the #1 song of 2004! It's actually a solid top 20 from top to bottom. Way to go NPR!

McLusky Is Dead, Long Live McLusky

I was very sad to learn today that McLusky, one of my favorite bands, has broken up. The following message is currently posted on their website:

"The three piece rock band known as mclusky have disbanded, as of friday january 7th, 2005. The reason for this parting is private, though probably not as entertaining as you'd imagine. Personally, I would like to thank all the people, places and times that occured on or near us. I`m grateful for the love and to to a lesser degree, the hate. There'll be more music soon, from all of us. "

In their five years as a band, McLusky put out three full length albums including my personal favorite McLusky Do Dallas. It seems like a lot of bands have been parting ways lately (Beta Band, Beulah, Guided By Voices), hopefully this isn't some sort of a trend :-(

Update: Pitchfork has a little more information on the break-up posted here. The best news in the article is that there are plans in the works to put out one more McLusky release:

"The compilation idea is still in its embryonic stages," Falkous says. "But the idea is to combine A sides (11 songs), B sides (23 songs), and a rarities/live disc of 20 songs or so, which covers almost the entire life of the band. It'll be cheaper than life itself and I have no idea what it'll be called, although some hilarious variation on 'Greatest Hits' is absolutely out of the fucking question.""


Monday, January 10, 2005

America (The Book) Banned In Mississippi

From the just when you thought you'd heard it all department, today we learned that eight libraries in Mississippi have joined Wal-Mart in banning Jon Stewart's best-selling "America (The Book)". Despite being named 'Book of the Year' by Publishers Weekly, the book apparently doesn't cut it as library material due to one page which features the heads of the Supreme Court justices superimposed over naked (and may I add unattractive) bodies.

"We're not an adult bookstore. Our entire collection is open to the entire public. If they had published the book without that one picture, that one page, we'd have the book." - Robert Willits, director of the Jackson-George Regional Library System

I think former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (unfortunately not pictured in the book) summed it up pretty well when he said "Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us." Oh the irony.

The ALA has a good link on their site about banned books in recent history. Did you know that of the 100 top novels of the 20th century, exactly one third have been removed or threatened with removal from bookstores, libraries and schools at some point? At least "America (The Book)" can take solace in the fact that it is in good company.


Tsunami Aerial View

A friend recently sent me this link to a site showing fascinating aerial photos of the areas hit by the recent tsunami. The before and after images on the site really drive home the level of the destruction in these areas.


Sunday, January 09, 2005

How We Are Hungry

I'm currently reading How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers of McSweeney's fame. The book is a collection of his short stories, many of which have already appeared in some form or another in various publications. So far it's pretty good, although like most short story collections it's a bit hit or miss. If you're unfamiliar with Dave Eggers work, then I'd recommend starting out with his first novel A Heart-Breaking Work of Staggering Genius before delving into this one.

One cool thing about the book is that all of the proceeds from the hard-covered edition are going to 826 Valencia, which is a charity organization that provides free drop-in tutoring to kids in the San Francisco area. If you're ever in town, it's definitely worth swinging by their facilities to check out the pa-pa-pa-pirate store they've created to help fund the charity. A similar organization has already been set up in NYC, where they've set up their own Superhero themed store. We saw Dave Eggers at a reading at Elliott Bay Bookstore a couple of months ago, and he mentioned that plans are already in the works to open a similar operation in the Seattle area in the near future. I'm hoping that works out, as it would be a great addition to the community and a wonderful organization to volunteer at.

Wilco on the Tee Vee

Wilco was on Austin City Limits last night, and on the David Letterman show Friday night . On Letterman they played 'The Late Greats', which is the last track on their new(ish) CD A Ghost is Born. The set list from the ACL show is posted on the ACL website. Both performances were excellent and just further confimed that the new album is really good live. Gotta love the Wilco.

The ACL episode also included a set by Bright Eyes who brought in Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) and M. Ward as guests. It was cool to see the show, especially since we saw the same group of musician perform at the Moore Theater on October 18th, 8 days after the ACL episode was taped. On tour they jokingly dubbed themselves The Monsters of Folk. I'm excited about the new Bright Eyes CDs that are coming out in late January and the new M. Ward CD which I believe is also due out early this year.

Bring Out Your Dead

Just when it seemed like things in our Washington state gubernatorial race might start settling down, it looks like they're about to get even more crazy. On Friday the Seattle PI ran an article exposing the fact that at least 8 people who died well before the November election ended up being credited with voting. The Seattle Times then countered with their own article that indicated that as many as 24 dead voters may have risen from their grave to do their civic duty. Apparently these kinds of things aren't uncommon, but when you have an election that comes down to a mere 129 votes they start to become a lot more interesting.

On Saturday, Dino Rossi built on this news and officially filed suit to request that the state throw out the election results and hold a new election.

"'The number of illegal votes counted, and the number of valid votes improperly rejected in this election, are so great as to render the true result of the election uncertain and likely unknowable,' the lawsuit claimed."

Any statistician would tell you that a 129 vote difference in an election of this size is a statistical tie. So does it make sense to throw things out and do it again? Maybe, but the Republicans certainly didn't think so when it was their candidate in the lead.

For now Christine Gregoire is still slated to be sworn in as the next governor on Wednesday. Who knows what kind of fun stories will come out between now and then?


YourMusic.com Queue

I got a chance to sit down and add some items to my YourMusic.com queue this morning. Here's my initial Top 10:

  1. Nick Drake - Made To Love Magic
  2. Sondre Lerche - Two Way Monologue
  3. PJ Harvey - Uh Huh Her
  4. Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (Remastered)
  5. Patti Smith - Horses (Remastered)
  6. Neil Young - After The Gold Rush
  7. Sonic Youth - Sonic Nurse
  8. John Lennon - The John Lennon Collection
  9. Paul Westerberg - Folker
  10. Replacements - Tim

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the selection. They certainly don't have everything I'd like them to, but there's enough there to come up with a solid selection for each month. Also cool to know that they will be continuing to add new CDs in the coming months, so if anything interesting becomes available I can just slip it into the queue.

On a side note, I found a cool website called Acclaimed Music that was helpful in compiling my list. The site has lists of the top albums and songs of all-time and was built by compiling lists from various sources. Everything is cross-referenced nicely which makes it easy to dig in and find more information about the things you're interested in. For instance, you can browse to a band's page to find out how their work has been received, or even drill down to an album to see what critical lists a specific album has appeared on. Good stuff.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

YourMusic.com

YourMusic.com is a cool new NetFlix-like service where you build a queue of CDs that you'd like to purchase. Each month they send you the top CD on your list and charge you $5.99 (which includes shipping and handling). It looks like they have pretty good selection, including a wide variety of essential CDs that are a must for any good music collection. It's also cool that you can cancel your subscription at anytime, so there is no long-term commitment if you start to run out of CDs that look interesting. I just signed up and chose Kanye West - College Dropout as my first selection.

Blu-Ray Disc vs. HD-DVD

An interesting thing to watch this year will be the battle between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray Disc as they duke it out to see which technology will become the next generation DVD. It's like VHS vs. Beta all over again. Here's a few interesting facts about each.

Blu-Ray Disc
  • Can currently hold up to 50GBs of data
  • Currently handle data transfer at 36MBps
  • BD players are backwards compatibile with regular DVDs
  • Format chosen by Sony for the Playstation 3
  • Expected to be available in late 2005
HD-DVD
  • Can currently hold up to 30GBs of data
  • HD-DVD players would not be able to play regular DVDs
  • Chosen by the DVD Forum to be the HDTV successor to DVD
  • Less expensive to manufacture than Blu-Ray Disc
  • Expected to be available early in 2005

Smart Clocks

Another cool announcement from CES is that by the holidays Microsoft plans to start selling Smart Clocks that have similar features to the Smart Watches that are on the market today. Assuming that feature parity is achieved, the clocks should be capable of showing movie times, sports scores, stock prices, news briefs, Microsoft Outlook calendar appointments, weather reports and more.

UPDATE: The Seattle P-I just ran this article which provides more information about the Smart Clock announcement. It looks like MZ Berger and Oregon Scientific are the two companies who will be putting out the first devices.

Kodak Unveils Wireless Camera

At CES this week, Kodak announced a product called the Easy-ShareOne. The Kodak EasyShare-One is the first consumer digital camera to include built-in wireless capability for remote internet access. In other words, you can upload pictures directly to the web or your home network directly from the camera itself! Just another small step in the wireless everywhere direction that things are heading. It looks like the camera is expected to be available in June and will run in the $700 range ($599 for the camera plus $100 for the wireless card).

MicroMedia Paper

This month's Mobile PC magazine has a cool discussion of a potential product for the future called MicroMedia Paper. The basic idea is to create a paper-thin flexible display that has multi-media and wireless capabilities. Here are some of the other cool features of this product as listed on the Mobile PC web-site:

  • Ultra-thin power generation technology allows the battery to be contained in a replaceable Power Sticker
  • Touch-sensitive controls on the front of the Paper allow the user to play, pause, and scroll through media
  • A graphic equalizer allows adjustment to the sound to match the space and source material
  • A piezo vibrator provides good sound quality without adding bulk to the unit

Projected street for this cool new product: 2015. Should make for some pretty cool baseball cards!


Randy Johnson Pushes Yankees Over $200 Million

The Yankees recently agreed to a deal with Randy Johnson that will pay him $32 million dollars over the next two years. By adding him to the team, they've pushed their total payroll for next season up to over $200 million dollars, the highest total in baseball history.

I know $200 million may not seem like a lot of money at first, but here are just a few of the other things that George Steinbrenner could've purchased for his money:

  1. One million shares of Google stock, surely a better investment than the left arm of a 41 year old pitcher.
  2. An army of 2 million RoboSapiens. RoboSapien is the future and the future is now!
  3. 13 more private islands for Mel Gibson
  4. Every song that's ever been downloaded off of iTunes.
  5. Nearly every player on the 6 teams with the lowest payrolls in 2004 (Milwaukee, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Florida, and Cincinnati). Can you say salary cap?


Thursday, January 06, 2005

Inside the Recount

This week's Seattle Weekly includes an interesting piece on the recount of the Washington gubernatorial election. The article was written by Karyn Quinlan, who participated as a Democratic partisan in the recount process. In her retelling, she provides a fascinating look into a day-in-the-life of a ballot counter, by retelling the events that happened during her time on the project.

Crowder Goes Pro

The news from Gainesville today is that Channing Crowder has declared himself elgible for the NFL draft. According to the article in The Gainesville Sun, he's projected as a 2nd round pick, although most of the mock drafts I've seen have him going in the mid-to-late 1st round. My guess is he'll go early if he's able to convince teams that he can stay healthy. It's going to be a shame not having Crowder around next year as he was a lot of fun to watch. The good news is that freshman Brandon Siler is likely to step into the starting role next year, and he looked really good in the games he started while Crowder was out with his foot injury.

Ashlee Simpson Booed at Orange Bowl

The Oklahoma Sooners apparently weren't the only ones deserving of boos at last night's Orange Bowl fiasco. For some reason, Ashlee Simpson decided to actually 'sing' her own vocals during the half-time show. The result of this bold move? A chorus of well-deserved boos. As Jon Stewart so aptly put it in his short coverage of the event on The Daily Show, these are the same football fans who'll cheer for an injury. We're not exactly talking Pavorotti fans here. IFILM has posted a short clip on their website where you can catch the last bit of her performance and the reaction that followed.

I've got to say I'm actually fairly impressed in a way. I've seen a lot of half-time shows in my day and they've all sucked. To stand out in that crowd of suckage is actually an impressive feat when you really think about it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The First Picture From My Camera Phone

This is the first picture I took with my camera phone. It's a picture of a mostly empty glass of red wine that I had at a fancy schmancy Italian restaurant in Fremont. Posted by Hello



After all the grief I had getting things working yesterday, I have to say that once you have your stupid Verizon account(s) all set up it's pretty darned easy to go from taking a picture on your phone to posting it on your blog. Here are the steps I used to upload the picture you see here:


  1. Took the picture on my camera phone.
  2. Browsed to the picture in the cell phone's image gallery and chose to upload it to my Online Album.
  3. Logged on to the Online Album at vzwpix.com and saved a copy of the picture to my hard-drive.
  4. Launched the Hello messaging software recommended by Blogger. The software has simple UI that allows you to easily add your blog as a pseudo-contact.
  5. Started a message with the pseudo-contact (aka BloggerBot), selected my picture, typed in the text I wanted to include with it in my blog and hit send.

Ben Gibbard and James Mercer

I just purchased my tickets to the Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie)/James Mercer (Shins) show at the Showbox on January 14th. It should be an excellent concert and it's for a great cause as all of the proceeds from the show are being donated to Northwest Medical Teams to help aid in the tsunami relief effort. I'm very excited.

My Painful Verizon Wireless Website Experience

I finally got my camera phone all set up today, but let me just say navigating the hell that is the Verizon website world is a pain that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

I started off my Dante-like journey by going to verizon.com, but I soon found that it doesn't cover their wireless offerings, just their internet and land-line services. I've made this mistake before, so I quickly realize that I actually need to go to website #2, aka verizonwireless.com where I can log on to my wireless account and view my current wireless plan. So far, so good. After much poking around in the various options listed under my account, I finally realize that although you can enable text messaging from here you cannot enable picture messaging (obviously). Why this would be, I have no idea but who am I to rock the boat. So now it's on to website #3 (aka getitnow.vzwshop.com) where I get to listen to some terribly annoyingly peppy background music (with no mute option) while I search through the various photo plans that are available for my picture uploading pleasure. I'm getting close now, I can feel it. After reviewing the plans and settling on one that won't cost me my retirement (or at least not all of it), I pick up my phone and go to the 'Get It Now' option where I've been conditioned to go to download anything that I want to 'Get Now'. Surely this will work and I'll be on my way. Oh if it were only that easy.

After playing with the phone for awhile (read too long), I realize that enabling my new plan from the phone itself isn't possible. It was a nice thought though. So it's back to the 'Get It Sometime Maybe' website for more poking around. After several more minutes staring at the site while banging my forehead on my monitor, I finally figure out that buried on the same screen that shows the available plans is a magic button that says 'Start Shopping'. Kudos to Verizon, I can't believe that other websites haven't implemented this wonderful feature to prevent people from accidentally shopping when they don't intend to. If I only had a penny for every time I was seemingly just innocently browsing the web only to find myself signing a UPS slip for a unexpected package two weeks later. Anyways, I add the picture plan to my cart and hit check-out. The plan is billed monthly so you would think that checking out would consist of entering your wireless number and then entering some basic info to verify it's your account. You would be wrong. Instead I find myself filling out a long form with a bunch of information that I know already exists in my wireless account. In fact I even have to enter my account number which sends me scurrying back to verizonwireless.com to look it up (contrary to popular opinion I do not have these things memorized). Is the 'Get It Now' web site seriously not able to look any of this information up from other data sources? Is anyone else getting the impression that the people at Verizon who work on 'Get It Now' work in one building and the people that work on the 'main' Verizon Wireless site work in a different building, and that they probably don't talk to each other all that often? Anyways, I stay calm, fill out the form and click Submit. One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi, Woo Hoo everything works. From here I'm taken to a confirmation page which indicates that the feature will now be enabled pending a credit approval. Are you kidding me? $2.99 a month and I have to wait for a credit approval? Sigh.

So assuming that my credit gets approved (and I don't mean to jump to conclusions here), I'm all set now...or at least so I think. I pick up the phone and find one of the pictures I took yesterday to test things out. The picture seems to upload correctly to the Verizon picture site aka vzwpix.com aka site #4. Now all I need to do is create an account, log-in and see how it looks. To create an account the site requires you to enter your cell number to register your phone. No problem, I enter my number and click Register. Surprise, I get back an error saying this number has already been registered. Weird. I don't recall ever coming to this site seeing as I just got the phone 2 days ago, but whatever. I find an option that resets your password on an existing account, so I type in my number there. Now I get back an error saying that no account exists for my number. Now that's a cool feature, nothing is more secure than a web-site that no one can long on to. A deep breath, a 20 minute phone-call, two Verizon service agents, and one more website (vtext.com aka website #5) later I'm finally able to log-in and see a picture sent my phone. Technology, you've got to love it!